The world’s largest iceberg just broke off Antarctica in a process known as ice calving.
- The new iceberg is about 105 miles long and 15.5 miles wide, making it 70 times the size of Manhattan and bigger than the state of Rhode Island, CNN and NBC News said.
- The huge ice chunk calved from the western side of the Ronne Ice Shelf and broke into the Weddell Sea, HuffPost and CNN reported.
Officials named the ice chunk A-76, using the standard convention of the Antarctic quadrant followed by the sequential number of icebergs in the area, CNN reports. If A-76 breaks further, the smaller chunks will be named with sequential letters.
Why did the iceberg break off?
The iceberg was first sighted last week by polar oceanographer Keith Makinson with the British Antarctic Survey. The European Space Agency began watching the iceberg on May 13 using two satellites, NBC News reports.
- The lead analyst at the U.S. National Ice Center told HuffPost that the break was “not unexpected ... but it did come out of the blue, sort of.”
- Iceberg breaks tend to happen unpredictably, the lead analyst said.
According to CNN and NBC News, scientists have not attributed this particular ice calving to climate change. Ice calving is part of the natural cycle of ice shelves, with chunks breaking off at regular intervals.
- The Ronne Ice Shelf is the second-largest ice shelf in Antarctica and is named after the first American woman to visit the southernmost continent on an expedition in the 1940s, HuffPost said.
What happens to the iceberg now?
A-76 will eventually melt and break apart, HuffPost reports. The iceberg may move northward toward waves and warmer water temperatures. However, because the iceberg was already floating in the ocean, A-76 will not cause sea levels to rise, CNN said.
Is this the largest iceberg ever?
No, A-76 is the world’s largest iceberg right now. Previously, an iceberg named A-23A held the title with a size of about 1,500 square miles, NBC News said. A-23A is still floating in the Weddell Sea.